Super Mario 3D World is platforming at its best, filled with secrets and hidden interactions

Super Mario 3D World is platforming at its best, filled with secrets and hidden interactions

There is a world map in the Wii U game Super Mario 3D World, but you can now run around it freely and find some interesting things in the landscape. Be sure to explore everything.

You can place your finger on the touchscreen of the Wii U GamePad and “point” to things on the screen. Your cursor is, appropriately enough, a hand with a pointing finger. This hand is a 3D object in the game, and can interact with the world. I spent a few moments on a beach level drawing in the sand.

You can shake the snow off trees in another level to find coins. Be sure to twirl your finger around the world every so often. You may be surprised at what you find.

There is an object that splits your character in two, giving you control of a twin Mario, Luigi, Peach, or Toad. There are levels that allow you to split your character multiple times, allowing five Luigis or so to run around. If you keep a high number of your characters alive and get them all to stand on a certain block, you may earn a nice surprise.

You can blow on the GamePad to cause certain fans to turn, which can then propel your character around the level, or maybe cause a platform to move. There are some moments where this move is clearly indicated. There are others where it is much more hidden. It’s sometimes a good idea to simply blow on the controller to see what happens.

I could go on and on. The game is filled with brief moments of joy punctuated by longer moments of delight. Each level seems to guide you towards its secrets, while keeping others deeply hidden. A simple mechanic introduced early in a world may prove ingeniously layered into a puzzle a few levels later.

The game teaches you how to play as you go, and then ups the challenge of those skills until you become a better player. I made the mistake of thinking the game was easy through the first few worlds, only to realize how much content I was missing in my initial attempts. Only the hardcore Mario fans, the truly dedicated players, will be able to find and unlock every secret.

This isn’t a game that will frustrate younger gamers or the more casual, however. Simply surviving each level is easy enough, and if you die enough times you’ll be given magical items that make you nearly invincible. Being stuck isn’t fun, and this is a game that does everything in its considerable power to make sure you have fun.

The music, in particular, is inspired. I’m counting down the moments until they release a soundtrack.

The more moments like the ones above I describe, the more I’m taking from your experience when you sit down and play it for yourself. The new cat suit is silly, but it also allows you to run up walls, and bat at the enemies. You may not be able to feel like a badass when you see two or three characters running around the screen in their cat ears, but it’s damned near impossible to do so without smiling.

This isn’t the inspired anarchy of past 2D Mario games, as it’s possible to slow down and work with the other players in multiplayer to succeed. You’ll want to bring a friend along, and help each other explore every nook and cranny of these exceptional levels.

The camera looks down on the action from an angle, and that can often feel a little awkward as you’re trying to line up a tricky jump or catch a moving item, but the game is generous with the extra lives.

Even if you don’t particularly care for Mario, this is a game that offers a master class in both level design and platforming. You’ll find yourself constantly stumbling over surprises and easter eggs, many of which exist only to offer a small moment of interactivity as a reward for your questioning nature.

Super Mario 3D World doesn’t just want to be played, it wants to be played with, and doing so is an absolute joy, no matter your age or skill level. This is a must-have game for the Wii U, and one of the best games of the year.